Intel to release updated microcode going back at least 5 years

To fix the problems associated with the Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities, Intel will be releasing microcode [i.e. BIOS] updates going back quite far. How far? Initially they said going back to the 4th generation Core processors but now they are planning to go even farther. At least back as far as Core 2 Duo days. Updates will be available from OEMs and not Windows Update.

You can find the announcement here.

[Update 2018/03/05:] Microsoft will slowly be offering microcode update though Windows Update Catalog. One update will cover them all. If your CPU is not supported at the time, it will notify you.

The catch is that the update will not be through Windows Update but through the Windows Update Catalog. So you will have to manually download the update.

[Update 2018/03/16:] Microsoft added more CPUs (6th through 8th generation) now to the update. Updated 8th generation as well as the upcoming 9th generation CPUs will have the fix in addition to other protections, so Intel says.



How to turn off Airplane Mode in Windows 10 when it doesn’t want to turn off

There is an occasional time when with Windows 10, “Airplane Mode” is turned on and can’t be turned off no matter what you do.

What is Airplane Mode? Airplane mode gives you a quick way to turn off all wireless communications on your PC.  This would include Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, cellular, and Near Field Communication (NFC).

Note: Some older Dell Inspiron laptops seem to have this issue. You can’t turn off Airplane Mode.

Normally, to turn airplane mode on or off, select the Network Wi-Fi icon on the taskbar, then select Airplane mode. You can also turn it off [or on] in Settings, then Network & Internet. Click on Airplane Mode on the left column. Move the Airplane Mode slider to off [or on].

If this is where you can’t turn off then try one of the options below:

  • Press the Fn key [bottom left of the laptop keyboard] and the Print Screen [could be PrtSc on some keyboards] until the mode is turned off.
  • Strange but true, you can try unplugging anything USB like portable drives and then rebooting the computer.
  • Some laptops have a physical button to enable or disable the Airplane Mode.
    Turning the Wi-Fi button on the keyboard [or maybe a physical button] off or on.

If the above do not work, then try this one:

Go to the Control Panel. [If you see 8 icons, in the upper right corner of the window change view to large or small icons.] Find Device Manager. Click and expand Network Adapters. Look for something that says “Wi-Fi” and/or “802.11” in the name. This is your wireless card. Once found, right click on that device and select Properties.  Click on the Power Management tab. Uncheck Allow the computer to turn off this device to save power. Click on OK and exit the Device Manager. Try turning off Airplane Mode [or try after rebooting].
One final option [which may work] is to get the latest software for your wireless card. While finding the wireless card in the paragraph above, try Update Driver Software instead of Properties. Follow the directions. [You can also get the latest from the manufacturer but you probably need some professional assistance for this.]

Office 2019 is coming soon, only Windows 10 is supported

Microsoft has announced that the upcoming release of Office 2019 – expected in the second half of 2018 [and I suspect in early October when a feature update of Windows 10 will be released] – will only support the currently supported editions of Windows 10 [a.k.a. “Semi-annual Channel”], Windows 10 LTSC 2018 and as well as the next LTSC version of Server.

Yes. There will be no support for Windows 7 or Windows 8.1.

And as a nothing big piece of news, Office 2019 – non-server applications – will only be available in the Click-and-Run deployment. That means you download a stub [or executable] and it will download Office from the Internet. [So you better have a decent speed for the internet.]

Server applications will continue to be available with the traditional MSI format.

Finally, Microsoft has also cut some of the support time for Office 2019 desktop applications. As of the Office 2019 release, there will be 5 years of full support and just 2 years of extended support.

Considering Windows 10 is just barely coming close to breaking the 50% mark in deployments, they are shutting themselves out in some potential sales. That said they have the issue where Windows 7 is still huge and Windows 8.1 is very small. They can’t stop Windows 8.1 support but continue Windows 7 support.

Microsoft is assuming those millions of Windows 7 users will upgrade to Windows 10 as support ends in less than 2 years. But there are still quite a few using Windows XP and even Windows Vista.


Windows 7 two year warning

Just a note that Windows 7 support will officially die in about 2 years.

When that happens, Microsoft will not offer any new support [including security updates]. Similarly, most third party will stop supporting Windows 7. For example, whomever you use for anti-virus may stop further updates. In another example, new printers will not contain software to support Windows 7 [although this could happen sooner].

Your options:

  1. Stick with Windows 7 but expect lest security.
  2. Buy a new computer [in particularly if your computer is quite old and/or slow.
  3. Upgrade to Windows 10.

For the latter you may say “I thought that free upgrade period was long over?” It is but there is a caveat.

You can still upgrade to Windows 10 but you have to uninstall all licensed software and back up your data. You then need to wipe the hard disk and install Windows 10 with the Windows 7 license, install your licensed applications and restore your data. That is a lot of work, but it can be done.


Some directions for Windows computers and the CPU flaw

As you probably know by now, Intel [and to a lesser extent other CPU developers] were hit with a vulnerability that in some cases go back over 20 years.

Most operating system developers have released update or will shortly.

For example, Apple has released updates for their supported hardware. Google will release updates for Android [harder to exploit – surprisingly]. Microsoft has released updates for their operating systems but with a caveat – anti-virus developers must correct their own software first if using some programming code they shouldn’t of.

According to current information at this time, here are the most common anti-virus products and their status:

Avast: Fixed if using version 8 or later.

ESET: Fixed if you check for updates.

Kaspersky: Fix previously released.

McAfee: Expected to use the registry fix found here.

Microsoft: Windows Defender is fixed.

Norton: Fixed.

Panda: Expected to use the registry fix found here.

Symantec: Fixed when checking for updates.

Trend Micro: Can use the registry fix found here.

WebRoot: Expected to use the registry fix found here.

Once the fix is in place, Windows Update should list the January 2018 update.

If your computer is still supported, check for a recent BIOS update as well.

Please note that the information given is as is. I am not responsible for any issues that may arise. Check with the anti-virus vendor first. Failure could result in a BSOD or other issues. If your vendor isn’t listed, go to the vendor’s web site.

[Update 2018/01/11:] If you have VMware Workstation Player or Pro [recent supported versions or any business line versions, you may want to check for updates. If you are receiving updates with your AMD CPU, either you were unaffected or the issue has been fixed.

Some older AMD processors have had the recent OS updates suspended by Microsoft following some blue screen of deaths. Athlon 64 X2 seem to be affected.


Should Microsoft ditch feature upgrades twice a year?

Since the summer of 2015, when Microsoft released Windows 10, Microsoft has been sending out feature updates [roughly] every 6 months.

Some background first. A feature update is that huge update that is release every six months. It includes new features to Windows plus enhancements to current features as well as security updates.

But as you probably noticed, you need to download this huge update [2 GB or greater]and wait anywhere from 30 minutes to a couple of hours until the update is finished. A small business can’t sit around while one or more computers are being updated.

[And if you have a system like mine, any time a feature update is installed, it botches up several settings that you probably painstakingly have configured only to have to redo them in 6 months because Microsoft doesn’t seem to care about our settings.]

This also causes developers to fix/correct problems that will occur with a feature update.

Large businesses have to decide which feature edition to base their Windows 10 deployment on, only to find out that after building the image and doing pilot test runs, another feature edition is around the corner. These businesses will most likely base their deployment on the latest feature edition and not worry about the next feature edition when released – or even the one after.

After speaking with some people – both novices and technical – I think most would be happy with one feature upgrade per year. Windows 10 is mature enough. Even Apple doesn’t have major updates not more than once per year.

There will be some issues that would need to be somehow updated. For example, Edge, the web browser. It is still far from being perfect and strong enough to compete the other web browsers. [It is last among the major web browsers that works with Windows 10. One in ten people use it.] It needs to be updated more than twice a year. Chrome and Firefox are constantly being updated and enhanced.

There isn’t a competing Windows operating system but there is for web browsers. When Windows 10 was originally released [and even now], Microsoft was foolish to hide Internet Explorer in the “Start” menu system. After using Edge, which was more like a beta version when released in the first few feature editions, most Windows 10 users headed straight to Google or Mozilla’s web site to download their web browsers – not knowing Internet Explorer was still there.

Changes coming to some Skype users in January

If you use Skype and Facebook and you are logging into Skype with Facebook, you will have to replace your Facebook account in Skype with a Microsoft ID [account] such as one used for Email [Hotmail/Live] by January 10th.

[I personally don’t know anyone who is logging into Skype with a Facebook account.]
So as of January 11th, you can only use a Skype name or a Microsoft ID account.

Microsoft claims they have 300 million registered Skype users [out of 1 billion Microsoft IDs]. This will drop the total a bit.

How do you know what kind of account you have? Well, if configured, the upper left corner of your main screen gives you and indication. Skype names should just be your login name. Microsoft ID accounts may be your Email address or something that begins with “Live:”. You can verify by going into your profile.